Once a Southern belle who claims she was the darling of her small town’s social scene, Amanda Wingfield is now an abandoned wife and single mother living in a small apartment in St. Louis. She dreams of her past and of her daughter’s future, but seems unwilling to recognize certain harsh realities of the present. She is a loving mother, but her demands can make life difficult for Laura and unbearable for Tom.
The first scene opens with the obviously strained relationship between Amanda and her son Tom. She is overbearing and tedious, ‘Honey, don’t push with your fingers. There is nothing selfish or heartless in her first speech where she demands Tom chew his food properly, though this attachment inevitably leads to many bitter arguments.
Though in this scene how Tom chews his food seems no big deal it represents how Amanda selfishly controls her children’s lives, her major weakness is she can’t let them live their own lives because of her fear of Tom becoming a drunk, leaving home and not being around to support his family. Though this may seem selfish and heartless to what Tom wants for his own life and future, Amanda and Laura are totally dependant on him and it should be his duty to support them.
Amanda’s domineering character is what suffocates Tom making him want to leave and never look back, ‘eat food leisurely, son, and really enjoy it. ‘ Amanda shows a caring and motherly side to Laura, ‘resume your seat, little sister. ‘ This shows that Amanda is genuinely worried about Laura ending up single for the rest of her life. She does not want to believe that her only daughter is a disheartened and a lonesome woman who finds contentment among a world of glass figurines. Though she does care it is selfish and heartless to keep on reminding Laura that she has no gentleman callers.
Amanda throughout the play carelessly and heartlessly reminds Laura of her inadequacies, ‘I understood the art of conversation. ‘ By continuously talking about her own popularity and her own social qualities she is selfishly but without meaning to having a dig at Laura, and making her feel more inadequate. Amanda’s continuous repetitive story of ‘one Sunday afternoon in Blue Mountain I received seventeen gentleman callers. ‘ This obvious exaggeration or total figment of Amanda’s imagination will only make Laura feel that she can never be what her mother wants her to be, and that she will never receive a gentleman caller.
This selfishness and lack of understanding of her children’s emotions makes both Tom and Laura retreat into their own fantasy worlds; mentally scarring them for life. Amanda’s never-ending grip on her fabricated past show how selfishly self-centred she is, her insecurity leads her to seek comfort from this so-called past glory, she is desperate for her children to be proud of her. So instead of being a proper parent and giving encouragement to her children to accomplish great things she keeps referring to her past to make herself feel better and needing her children’s compliments to satisfy her ego.
Amanda’s heartlessness is demonstrated vividly in scene two, ‘she draws a long breath and takes out the handkerchief again. ‘ Her melodramatic and over-dramatisation of everything that she does leaves Laura shaking and afraid of her own mother. This demonstrates how Amanda has selfishly made herself unapproachable to her own children, the wide gulf between mother and daughter makes the audience realise that Laura’s lack of confidence and total lack of social skills are because Amanda is too wrapped up in her own world to be a proper mother.
Amanda has not given her crippled daughter the extra love and support that she would need to go out and face the world; a girl in Laura’s position would need to be nurtured carefully and prepared for all the hardships life would inevitably throw at her; Amanda has done none of these things for Laura; ‘we won’t have a business career- we’ve given that up because it gave us nervous indigestion! (laughs wearily). ‘
Her selfishness comes through again when discussing Laura’s future she makes everything about her, ‘what are we going to do, what is going to become of us, what is the future? In every situation Amanda always makes herself out to be the victim; ‘Walking? In winter? Deliberately courting pneumonia in that light coat. ‘ She shows no sympathy to Laura, and accuses Laura of deliberately doing this to spite and disobey her mother; ‘you did all this to deceive me, just for deception? ‘ Amanda’s selfishness again comes through as the audience sees why Amanda is so controlling over her children especially Laura; Amanda is wanting to live her dreams and the life she never had through Laura; ‘so what are we going to do the rest of our lives?
Stay home and watch the parades go by? Amuse ourselves with the glass menagerie, darling? ‘ The ironic way she talks with her already fragile daughter is very heartless and psychologically damaging to Laura. Amanda selfishly does not help Laura get on with her life by not accepting the fact that Laura is crippled. Amanda in her own world has the illusion that there is nothing wrong with Laura, even when Laura or Tom bring it up she refuses to accept showing how heartless she is to her children’s feelings. ‘Nonsense! Laura, I’ve told you never, never to use that word.
Why, you’re not crippled, you just have a little defect- hardly noticeable, even! ‘ Amanda’s selfish denial of Laura’s crippled leg only cripples Laura further mentally, physically and socially. Though Amanda means well everything she says comes out wrong as her selfish motive for wanting to live her life through Laura comes through in everything she says; everything always comes down to what Amanda wants for herself, not for her children; ‘my hopes and ambitions for you. ‘ Amanda is constantly reminiscing about the past and especially about her long-gone husband.
This constant reminder about the father that left them and never looked back is both selfish and heartless. ‘Amanda’s hair is in metal curlers and she wears a very old bathrobe, much too large for her slight figure, a relic of the faithless Mr Wingfield. ‘ Memories of their father only set the children back further; though Amanda herself can’t move on she is selfishly not letting them move on either; keeping them with her in her illusion of the past makes Laura retreat further into her own world and makes Tom long for freedom even more.
Amanda does not mean to be heartless but her selfishness is what brings about the heartlessness. This selfish controlling is shown in her deal with Tom; ‘I mean that as soon as Laura has got somebody to take care of her, married, a home of her own, independent – why, then you’ll be free to go wherever you please, but until that time you’ve got to look out for your sister. ‘ This impossible ultimatum proves that the selfish and heartless Amanda does not want her own daughter to be her problem; she is effectively as bad or even worse than their father.